The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council dismissed yesterday the appeal of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) against a decision of the Supreme Court of Mauritius quashing the conviction of the Prime Minister, Mr Jugnauth for an offence of "conflict of interests" contrary to section 13(2) and (3) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 2002 ("POCA") as amended by section 4(b) of the Act No 1/2006.
The basis of the charge was that Mr Jugnauth whilst being then a public official, whose relative had a personal interest in a decision which a public body had to take, did wilfully, unlawfully and criminally take part in the proceedings of that public body relating to such decision. The particulars of the charge were that Mr Jugnauth whilst being then the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development had approved the reallocation of funds amounting to Rs 144,701,300 to pay Medpoint Ltd.
Mr Jugnauth was convicted of the offence on 30 June 2015 following a trial before the Intermediate Court and on 2 July 2015 he was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment. On 25 May 2016, the Supreme Court allowed an appeal and quashed the conviction and sentence. On 22 June 2017, the Supreme Court granted the prosecution conditional leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. On 15 January 2018, the Supreme Court granted final leave to appeal.
The judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council sheds light on matters which were up to now in controversy as the Office of the DPP was of the view that the judgment of the Supreme Court gave rise to important questions, crucial to establishing an offence under section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (the POCA).
In granting leave to appeal to the Privy Council, the Supreme Court agreed that the matters referred to above raised substantial and significant issues of law of great general or public importance which ought to be submitted to the Privy Council for determination.
The Privy Council in its judgment has accepted the position of the Office of the DPP on the points of law in issue in this case and has confirmed the legal reasoning adopted by the Intermediate Court. On the other hand, the Privy Council has also found that on the facts of the present case, payment to Medpoint would have been effected irrespective of the re-allocation of funds and, therefore, the sister of Mr Jugnauth, Mrs Malhotra had no personal interest within the meaning of section 13(2) of the POCA. The Privy Council also underlined that by the same token, Mr Jugnauth could not have had knowledge of the existence of facts giving rise to a personal interest in the decision in his sister, because there were none.